A professor steeped in the literature of the Enlightenment has his core beliefs about science, reason, and progress altered when he faces the reality of raising a son with severe brain damage.
In his debut memoir, Gabbard (English/Univ. of North Florida), who serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, chronicles the challenges and joys of raising his son, August, who was born with profound impairments, both cognitive and physical: a spastic quadriplegic, legally blind, incontinent, unable to speak, and unable to feed himself. The author describes his son’s birth and the questions about decisions made in the delivery room. Gabbard is highly detailed in his discussions of his routine as daily caretaker and the ups and downs of August’s life, which included many surgeries and long hospitalizations. While making clear the enormous demands in both time and money, he is also transparent in his rendering of his deep, abiding love for his son. Once a devotee of the concept that our intelligence is what makes us human and that the unexamined life is not worth living, the author embraced the belief that love is what makes life worth living. To curious strangers, some of whom viewed August with wariness, Gabbard’s frequent reply—"This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased”—speaks volumes. The scenes with various doctors involved in August’s care reveal some of the limitations of the medical profession when faced with such physical and mental impairments, but Gabbard is not writing an exposé. This is both a memoir of a child’s short life and a father’s journey from an academic who thought that love was a weakness to a thoughtful, questioning adult who values the capacity to give and receive love.
Parents and caregivers will find plenty of inspiration in these moving, empathetic pages.